A new beginning so it seemed. A place full of hidden treasures was calling me to reveal its beautiful secrets. Excited and nervous at the same time about what the following 72h would bring me, I jumped into my next adventure and stepped on the plane towards unknown.
At arrival I chose an Uber to be the best option as it was already past 10pm and the owner of my rental apartment was waiting for me for the handover of the keys. Dimas, the driver did not spare the effort to wait and look for me while I was lost on the parking of the airport. Not only that, but he even insisted on carrying my luggage and walked me to the doorsteps of my apartment, promising he would work on his English as the body language workout we just went through made us sweat more than we wanted. I couldn’t wish more than that and that was just the kick off.
The apartment CASA ESPERA was located in Bairro Alto, the heart of the city, from where you can easily walk to every part of town with the waterfront just a few hundred meters away. Checking into Casa Espera was a little adventure by itself. The steep narrow staircase to the 3rd floor left little room for luggage and carrier, however, is worth every single step as it is the entrance to a little comfortable kingdom. The apartment was decorated with an eye for detail and a touch of vintage, leaving alone the eye catcher of music player in the living room. Satisfied with my choice of accommodation I stripped off my travel jumper, put on my adventure outfit and headed out to seize the night.
It started with a Mojito shared with another couch surfing soul in a bar called SPOT. As we both weren’t fond of the karaoke show the bar delivered we moved to Park Bar, a dazzling place on the roof of a parking garage. The place was packed with people from all over the world. We quickly mingled with some locals, teamed up with a tourist group of five Dutch ladies and two expats from Columbia/France and formed a party group with endless positive vibes. The night was young and we had our dance shoes on. So we continued the party at LUX, a well-known club at the Tagus riverside, danced the night away as light as feathers and welcomed the sunset with the hands high up in the air.
Riiight…The next day started rather slow.
Tram28 was on the menu for the afternoon. 1.5 hours under the burning heat of beautiful 31° C welded together my newly found connection with two German ladies. They, too, were on a treasure hunt, sensing that we were on the right track to something big. I understood why people preached to head to Marnim Moniz Square to enter the tram at its point of departure. Not only for the sake of the hangover cure the window seat was worth the wait. Standing all along on the 1h tramride holding on to some battered grab rails wasn’t exactly on my to do list, and God forbid, should the photos have turned out poorly. We tingled along amazing neighboorhoods such as Graca, Baixa, Estrela and Alfama which were filled with many tiny cosy stores offering everything your heart could desire. It was great!
That much that I decided to take the same line back, however, made my plan without checking the tram route and eventually ended up seeing other photogenic parts of the city.
After a little siesta I grabbed a real late night dinner at Taberna Portuguesa. Their staff was super courteous and the food to die for. I ordered the bread covered with chicken sausage, smoked ham, tomato and roasted cheese which blew me away and decided to eliminate the dessert at the Mirador Santa Lucia. With my thoughts dipping deeply into every bite of that heaven of chocolate cake I almost missed out on the enchanted encounter with Haio, but only almost.
He gave me a private city tour throughout the entire night. Stops worth to mention are certainly the Praca de Comercio with the Arco da Rua Augusta at its side, the Elevador de Santa Justa made out of iron that connects the lower streets of quarter Baixa with Chiado and Praca de Figueira. One of my favorites was to pass Rua da Bica de Duarte Belo which was hustling at daytime, given the fact that it is most likely the most photographed street of the city, and so incredibly peaceful at night. In my opinion the best way to get a closer look at the iconic funicular which carries passengers all day up and down.
My third day I entirely dedicated to Sintra, an official UNESCO World Heritage site and heavenly place with majestic palaces, castles and blooming estates from medieval times. The train ride took no longer than 40 minutes and departed at station Rossio. First I felt like being brave and walk all the way up to the National Palace de Pena, but luckily due to lack of time I changed my mind and did not regret to do so. It turned out to be a very steep and curvy way up and would have taken me certainly 1,5 hours to climb up those monstrous winding roads.
Arriving up there, the bright colors of the palace were reflecting and shining in all their glory making me wonder how a princess’ life back then would have looked like. Oh boy, and the view from up there was just priceless so there’s no other way than to go and check it out with your own eyes.
After soaking up a fair portion of sun on the Triton Terrace of the palace and feeling like a queen, I moved on to Quinta de Regaleira, a romantic park complex with fountains, lakes, grottoes and a palace. My personal highlight here was the Unfinished Well, the smaller of the two Initiation wells which never served as a water source as the name might suggest.
From one of the towers I embraced the last sun rays of the day and made sure to reward myself with a gigantic ice cream in the historic center of Sintra before heading back to Lisboa. The day was topped off with a dinner close to Castelo de Sao Jorge and some hot Salsa dance moves later the night at the Mirador das Portas do Sol.
So came the last day so much faster than expected and all I had in mind was to make that day count. I started with a delicious jamon y queso sandwich at mercado da ribera, a place with more than 30 food stalls offering tasty portuguese delicacies rather at the expensive end of the bill, nevertheless totally worth a visit considering how little I actually had spent that far. Happily stuffed I negotiated my way on a Tuktuk whose driver agreed to a private tour (I tried really hard to convince him to let me drive but for whatever reason he didn’t wanna give in). This ride was the best decision eeever! The only must do I had in mind even before coming to this beautiful city was to pay a visit to Antiga Confeitaria Belem, the bakery known to be the navel of the world of egg tarte pastries which are best enjoyable while warm. 15000 Pasteis de Belem how they are called are freshly produced and sold every single day to sweet teeth from all over the world. There was a queue of more than 100 meters that caused me pain only from looking at it. The easiest way to enter THE temple of custard cakes is so simple and at the same time the best way possible- with a local.
I had spent years on imagining how they would taste and there I was, devouring this sweet dream of desserts on the back of a Tuktuk while having the history of Lisboa explained to me. We passed the most famous sights such as the Monastery Jeronimo, Sao Bento Palace and Monument of Discoveries and I caught myself thinking how amazing it would be to live in this magical city and was determined to at least gather information to make this thought reality.
Could it get any better than this? Absolutely so…
Diving my toes into the refreshing blue and building sand castles at Costa da Caparica, a beach easily reachable via the 25de Abril Bridge which 100% lives up to its reputation. Impressed and totally sold my mind got carried away from the sound of the roaring waves of the Atlantic Sea.
My dearest Lisboa, as shy and innocent as you first may seem, the moment you showed me your hidden gems and wilderness you took my heart by storm and there is only one thing left to say: Muito obrigada! You always see each other twice in life! And without doubt you and me rather sooner than later.
Stay tuned and be part of my little adventures and share the love to travel! To be continued…